Annan told reporters, ”I can confirm to you that I have received a letter from the Iraqi authorities conveying its decision to allow the return of inspectors without conditions to continue their work.”
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri and Arab League chief Amr Moussa delivered the letter from the Iraqi government to Annan.
Weapons inspections, who were forced out of the country in 1998, are part of the UN’s sanctions imposed after Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait in 1990.
The decision comes amid heightened tensions with the U.S. over Iraq’s alleged nuclear, biological and chemical weapons capabilities. U.S. officials, including President Bush in an address to the UN Thursday, have warned about the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Iraq to neutralize Saddam’s ability to make war.
Iraq has denied such weapons exist, and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz last week said Mr. Bush’s speech was “full of lies.”
After receiving Iraq’s letter, Annan praised Mr. Bush, saying his UN speech “galvanized the international community.”
White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett told reporters the Iraqi offer was aimed at giving “false hope to the international community that he [Saddam] means business this time.”
Despite the skepticism, Bartlett added the U.S. is “working with the UN Security Council to determine the most effective way to reach our goal.”